Hip hop culture has taken young people off the streets, and at the same time, it has armed them with new kinds of oppositional knowledge and the means for self-organization. In the revolutionary movements sweeping the Arab world, rap music has emerged as a soundtrack for youth rebellion. Rap songs protesting police violence and authority have spread from Tunisia to Egypt through Youtube, ringtones and MP3s. The Tunisian rapper El Général was arrested and detained by the regime for his biting rhymes. But his music spread through Facebook and Al Jazeera television coverage, and upon his release he became an icon for the movement in his own nation and beyond.
Two of El Général’s songs — “President Your People are Dying” and “Tunisia, Our Country” — also spread to Libya and were included on a mixtape produced by a local dissident group there. Rap has flourished among the rebel forces who ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Songs by the Libyan rapper Ibn Thabit, including “Tripoli is Calling,” and “Dirty Colonel,” have become an anthem for young people involved in the upheavals.